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Dara Vann, a community mobilizer for Action Against Hunger, conducts the first information session In the village of Kompenh to educate families about rice banks.
In community meetings, villagers learn about the benefits of rice banks, and commit to to participate. Members decide where it will be located and elect a committee to oversee the bank. In her role as community mobilizer, Dara’s job is to inform communities, explain how the banks work and how they will benefit people, answer questions, and encourage as many people to join as she can. She says, “It is not easy to encourage villagers to join the community rice bank. Some want to join, but don’t have any time. I spend a lot of time explaining the benefits until they fully understand and agree.”
Chen Korn (middle) sits with her 15-month-old son, Khorn Sokunna, and her neighbors as they listen and learn about how to set up a rice bank in their village of Kompenh. She’s been elected to serve as treasurer of their bank committee. The rice bank committee is responsible for managing the bank, including monitoring and setting the prices and the interest rates for rice and seeds to help make sure poorest families can afford to borrow and buy what they need from the bank without putting themselves in jeopardy.
When Chen was younger, she wanted to become a nurse or a doctor, but her family couldn’t afford her education beyond primary school. She was able to learn to read and write, and she’s proud to be able to put those skills to work as she serves on the rice bank committee: “I was able to finish primary school, and I know how to write. That’s why I was elected to the rice bank. I can meet with people and help them borrow rice, and that makes me feel good.”
Action Against Hunger’s staff prepares the first community rice bank distribution in the Kompenh village. The rice banks were set up in partnership with World Food Programme, and with funding from our generous partners at Google, through a project called “Food for Asset.” Community members contributed the rice for the bank, as well as the labor to build it, manage it, and run it on their own to build resilience to hunger now, and for years to come.
Dara leads another community learning session in the village of Sraem Tgong. Dara works with community members in several villages in Preah Vihear Province, where Action Against Hunger is focusing its efforts.Occasionally, Dara stays overnight in the villages—a chance for her to get to know people even better: “I enjoy sleeping in the village. Villagers here are most willing to accommodate me, and it gives me the feeling that I am at home. By staying with them here, I can understand the situation of the families and communities better.”
Chen hopes that the rice bank will help her family and her community to build better lives for their children: “I would love to have enough money to send my kids to go to school. When they have knowledge, they can go to work and earn money. I want my youngest to become a policeman—that’s a good job.”
Chen works the fields with her husband, Khum Sokhorn. They met at a village dance, and have two little boys: a fifteen-month-old and a three-year old. Khum told us about the work he and Chen do together each day to make a better life for their family: “Farming is hard because we don’t have enough tools or materials, and because of the climate. Drought makes it hard to grow the rice, and then too much rain comes and makes it rotten. My wife worries that I will tire doing all of the work by myself, so we both work together, in solidarity.”
The community rice banks that Action Against Hunger has set up will not only make loans of rice to poor families who need it, but also give stocks of rice as payment for labor to people who are helping to dig new community ponds, designed to collect and store water to irrigate crops and safeguard against drought. The community ponds are another disaster risk management and food security project supported by Action Against Hunger in Preah Vihear.
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